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Old 26.02.2011, 16:11
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Skilift security Switzerland versus France

No system is perfect- but it is great that skilifts/chairlifts in Switzerland are always wo/manned top and bottom with quick action taken in case of a problem. A British 14 year old was strangled as his backpack got stuck coming off the chairlift in Chatel (France) the other day - and no-one was there to stop the lift and help the child. So reassuring to see lift attendants 'on the ball' and ready to act at all times here.
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Old 26.02.2011, 16:30
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

I only hope no-one Googles 'Skilift accidents Switzerland'. There might be someone at the top and the bottom (though I'm honestly not sure that this is always the case in CH either) but there have been quite a few accidents in the middle.
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Old 26.02.2011, 18:33
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

In 58 years of skiing - I've witnessed many skilift accidents, most occur at departure or arrival. In Switzerland, if something happens at the top/arrival- there is always an attendant who will immediately press on the stop button and be there in seconds to assist- but this is not generally the case in France. We've just spent a week in a French resort with our grand-children, and we know Chatel very well (where the poor boy was recently strangled by his rucksack). In CH, it is very unlikely the boy would have not been asked to remove his backpack and carry it on his knee, for instance. We were in Nendaz 3 weeks ago, and our guest was reminded every time. We also witnessed several falls on arrival, which were dealt with very promptly and safely.
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Old 28.02.2011, 20:43
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

I used to work as a skilift operator in the US (and so have also seen more than my fair share of accidents when people are getting on and off lifts). I can't imagine having a lift without an operator at the top! (Except for short rope tows, where one operator can see the whole lift.) Admittedly, I hadn't actually noticed that this was sometimes not the case in France, so I'm going to be watching closely for it on my next trip.

Regarding backpacks, getting them caught in the chair is not uncommon, and is very dangerous (as demonstrated by this drastic case). When I was an operator in the US, we didn't let anyone onto the lift until they'd removed one arm from the backpack (when it's only on one shoulder, then if it gets caught then it doesn't hold onto the person).

I've gone skiing/boarding with many people here who wore backpacks and always keep them on both shoulders. I've never seen a lift operator here (i.e., in Switzerland & France, mainly Portes du Soleil) advising them to do differently, and when I've given friends advice about it then they normally ignore me. Maybe if I cite this more drastic example it will do a better job of convincing friends to do it differently.
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Old 28.02.2011, 20:50
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

Where did you work? We were very surprised the first time we went to stay with friends in Winterpark (Co) that the old chairlift at the top of the Parsen Bowl did not even have a bar across the chair, and that was only about 12 years ago! This lift has now been replaced. Although generally safety in US is great. I once got a T-bar caught under my jacket on arrival in Torgon (Portes du Soleil CH side) when I was learning to snowboard, and there was nobody up top to help, which is almost unheard of. Thankfully I finally managed to pull it off, but it was scary. Anyway, stay safe all - but watch out for those pack backs- they can indeed be killers on chairlifts.

Last edited by Odile; 28.02.2011 at 21:12.
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Old 28.02.2011, 21:20
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

Slightly off topic, but in the same vein

A few years ago I was snowboarding in Laax. I was getting on a 4 man chair - no queues, so just me. A ski instructor came up to me and asked me if I minded a 3 year old being next to me - and could I look after him.

The little bugger the proceeded to try and climb out out the chair as we we a gazillion metres in the air, mainly by sticking his head under the safety bar. After nearly having a heart attack and seeing headlines of papers blaming me for negligence, I grabbed the little git by the hood. He then tried to wriggle out of his jacket ...

Never, ever again will I accept that situation, and neither should I be expected to by the ski school. I know kids are kids - but a outlining of why they have to ride lifts in a a safe way surely has to be mandatory, or they shouldn't use them.

I have since decided it was Darwinism in action ...

This has never happened to me in France, Italy , Austria or the US. I actually think safety standards on slopes here are quite cavalier - but it does depend on the resort you go to.
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Old 28.02.2011, 21:39
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

We were in StFoy Tarentaise (France near Tignes) 2 weeks ago. Our little grand-son 4 1/2 year old was in the PiouPiou beginner class. On 3rd day, moi + daughters were bombing down the main run when we came across - 1 of the instructors + half the class (6 toddlers) that were making better progress. It was such a thrill to see him doing so well - but yes, same thing happened on chair-lift, all and sundry were asked to keep an eye on 1 or 2 toddlers as described- of course the only way to get them up as you can't have 1 instructor per 1 or 2 kids. They were all brilliantly behaved though- and we looked after quite a few from other classes during the week.
Once in Les Saisies (France near Megeve)when kids were little, I asked the attendant to help lift my toddler on the chair - she slipped and fell. I jumped about 2 metres to get back to her, and by that time, the attendant had put her on another chair with 1 young 'stranger'. I shouted at him to please please help her at the top and wait for me. With my heart in my mouth, I followed them about 10 chairs behind. Young chap helped her and waited for me, refusing to hand her to her dad at the top, as he had promised ME that he would wait. Bless him.
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Old 28.02.2011, 22:03
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

Quote:
Where did you work? We were very surprised the first time we went to stay with friends in Winterpark (Co) that the old chairlift at the top of the Parsen Bowl did not even have a bar across the chair, and that was only about 12 years ago! This lift has now been replaced. Although generally safety in US is great. I once got a T-bar caught under my jacket on arrival in Torgon (Portes du Soleil CH side) when I was learning to snowboard, and there was nobody up top to help, which is almost unheard of. Thankfully I finally managed to pull it off, but it was scary. Anyway, stay safe all - but watch out for those pack backs- they can indeed be killers on chairlifts.

In general, in my experience, the safety bar is much less frequently used in the US. I don't recall people ever riding without it in CH, most people ride without it down in the US. I always have to ask chair -mates to bring it down, while in CH, it was just something that was done without asking.

Also, helmet use, while growing is probably not quite at CH levels in the US.

In the US, there are alot more ski lift operators and people working at the resort in general. Checking ski passes is done manually (with some kind of gun they shoot at you - being the new fancy technology) not automated like in many CH places.
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Old 28.02.2011, 22:15
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

The US 'resort Ambassador' system is great too , but would never work here due to too many languages.
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Old 28.02.2011, 22:49
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

I also believe that monitoring of skilifts are more diligent in Switzerland in France. As for the US standard of safety, however, I believe it is rather poor at least in California resorts. I can never figure out why people there are so reluctant in bringing down the safety bar on chairlifts. The bars are so little used, sometimes they get stuck and one cannot use them at all. Even worse, some chairlifts don't even have a bar (and thus no foot bar). It's rather frightening as the weights of my boots and skis threaten to pull me off the chair!
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Old 28.02.2011, 22:51
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

Really surprised about that- what with the 'suing' culture in US. We've only skiied in Winterpark and Steamboat in the US, and security there was top notch + safety bars always used.
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Old 28.02.2011, 23:01
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

Quote:
Really surprised about that- what with the 'suing' culture in US. We've only skiied in Winterpark and Steamboat in the US, and security there was top notch + safety bars always used.

I skiied WinterPark and don't remember useage there. But definitely used infrequently at Copper, Keystone and Breckenridge. On mountain safety is very good in the US. Lots of warnings (almost too many) for slowing down, lots of markings, well-maintained pistes, ski patrols, emergency phones, etc. Other than the safety bar issue, I think US resorts (at least Colorado) ones are pretty good.

Switzerland is good at safety, especially at the bigger resorts, at some of the smaller more local resorts, it is more expected that people take care of themselves and should not ski if they can't.
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Old 28.02.2011, 23:12
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

I threw a kid down from a chairlift in Chamonix once.

It was one of those old 3 or 4 seater chairlifts, that dont slow down, and therefore comes in quite fast. The kids' Ski Instructor asked me, if I could take a kid with me, and as the kind and helpful soul I am, I said yes. I got the kid on my left side, and my ski poles in the right hand, so I only had 1 hand free to help him.
The chair swings around behind us, and the seat comes and hit our Legs. The kid is too small to get his rear over the seat, and when we started to get airborne, I had the kid in my left arm, and he was too heavy. I could hold him, but not lift him. The lift Operator did not stop or slow down the lift, so I thought, it was better to drop him 1 meter down into a snowpile, instead of risking to ride 10 minutes i a chairlift, unable to get the kid up. *FLUMP* Kid laying in a snowpile. He did not start crying, so he was probably ok.

When we were at the top, 2 friends, who were behind us in the Queue, said, I dropped the kid 3 meters, and not just 1 meter as I had thought.

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Old 28.02.2011, 23:13
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

Since the bars don't come down automatically, this is more an attitudinal issue of the riders vis-a-vis safety than it is an issue of resort safety. All it takes is one person on the chair to pull the bar down, eh? I've never had anyone complain.
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Old 28.02.2011, 23:25
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

True, but some chairlifts (usually two-person) don't even have a bar. This was at Heavenly and Alpine Meadows. I always pull down the bar, so usually no problem except when they get stuck. Sometimes they are in such bad condition, I have to struggle to push them back up!
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Old 28.02.2011, 23:32
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

Again I am really surprised - sound like the sort of bars we had in the 60s in CH. At our local small resort (La Robella, Neuchatel Jura) they all had to be replaced to comply with new regs about 15 years ago which nearly bankrupted the resort.
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Old 01.03.2011, 10:16
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

Quote:
No system is perfect- but it is great that skilifts/chairlifts in Switzerland are always wo/manned top and bottom with quick action taken in case of a problem. A British 14 year old was strangled as his backpack got stuck coming off the chairlift in Chatel (France) the other day - and no-one was there to stop the lift and help the child. So reassuring to see lift attendants 'on the ball' and ready to act at all times here.
You mean like this?

Quote:
In CH, it is very unlikely the boy would have not been asked to remove his backpack and carry it on his knee, for instance. We were in Nendaz 3 weeks ago, and our guest was reminded every time.
I spent a week in Zermatt one month ago and another week in St. Moritz one week ago. Nobody ever asked me to switch my bag when i had it the wrong way round.

So much for hot air propaganda.
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Old 01.03.2011, 14:53
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

Quote:
Where did you work? We were very surprised the first time we went to stay with friends in Winterpark (Co) that the old chairlift at the top of the Parsen Bowl did not even have a bar across the chair, and that was only about 12 years ago! This lift has now been replaced. Although generally safety in US is great. ...
I worked in Washington State, USA; mainly at the Mission Ridge ski hill, but also a little at Steven's Pass, during the 97/98 season IIRC. I don't think any of the lifts I worked on had safety bars to pull down. I was quite intrigued when I discovered these fancy safety bar contraptions in other regions.

People falling out of the lift when halfway up was never a problem where I worked, so I'm unconvinced by the necessity of the bars. I do occasionally see them causing problems, though, when people forget to pull them up in time before reaching the unload point. I've shared chairs with random strangers sometimes who've insisted on not pulling the bar up until the very last possible moment, which always bugs me, I prefer to be ready to go before getting to the unload point. If it wasn't for the fact that the bars include nice comfy foot rests, then I would never bother to use them at all, personally.

As for little kids getting onto chair lifts, this is another area where I see the lift operators in Switzerland doing very little to help. The procedure where I worked was to make sure that the parent or person riding with the kid was on the outside of the chair, and the kid on the inside, so that he/she was next to the loading operator. The operator could then assist the kid to get into the chair, giving him/her a bit of a lift if his/her legs were too short (the technique was to put one arm across the front of the kid's thighs, grab a good amount of his/her ski pants on the far leg, and use that to give him/her a little boost up when the chair arrived; your other arm was always needed to slow/steady the chair because the chairs weren't "detachables", so they came through the load area at full speed, but could be slowed down by grabbing them to swing them back a little). The person riding with the kid can't be expected to do much because they need to make sure that they get into the chair OK. Over here, I rarely see the operators doing anything to help anyone.
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Old 01.03.2011, 15:43
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

We were at Thollon les Memises (France) over the weekend and I was surprised to see so many new signs reminding people to remove backpacks before getting on the chairlift. Now I KNOW why.
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Old 01.03.2011, 15:53
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Re: Skilift security Switzerland versus France

Shorrick - this terrible recent incident in Evolène is absolutely tragic. I know the resort so well, as I used to take groups from UK there regularly, both kids and adults. The child fell on the steeper bit before arrival and could not be seen from the top. Of course there are no attendants all along the lift, as 100000s would be required. The poor girl slipped to a well protected (thick mattress type protection tied around) pylon, but her helmet was not fastened properly and therefore slipped off- she was then deflected away from the access ramp and piste to an unprotected pylon. The case made me shudder, because I have taken so many kids there so I could directly relate to this. Many kids, and adults, do not wear their helmet properly fastened/tightened- and the resort can hardly be responsible for this. One could perhaps say that the teacher/school should have reminded kids about the importance of wearing their helmets properly (as a teacher I did so at the beginning of the holiday, and repeated this every morning before setting off + checked regular offenders) - perhaps the teachers did. At the end of the day, if a teenager loosens her helmet during the day - you can't be there every minute to check (although again, as a teacher I did regular checks throughout the day). At the ski school my grand-son attended, ski instructors checked their helmets every day.

Another teenager from my area died a couple of weeks ago in Nendaz. A group of girls chose to go and ski on a piste that was clearly marked as closed and dangerous. They slipped under the double orange rope and danger signs- and one of them died. Nothing the resort could do- sadly, and terribly tragic. They were 6th Formers and had signed a pledge to follow all regulations and safety - but were allowed to ski in small groups without supervision - just as were were when I was a 6th Former in CH in the 60s. A discussion on the wisdom of this is taking place now with the teachers, parents and school authorities. Sadly the result may well be that Ski Trips will no longer take place, as insisting on supervision/qualified instructors, would push prices beyond feasibility. Teachers are already saying that they will no longer accept to organise such trips.

Last edited by Odile; 01.03.2011 at 16:29.
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